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Ford and GM reliability ratings dip in Consumer Reports survey

Tue, 25 Oct 2011

Consumers rated Ford's new Explorer, Fiesta and Focus models at less-than-average reliability during their first year, according to Consumer Reports' annual auto survey.

Poor reception of the new models bumped Ford's overall reliability rank from the 10th spot in 2010 to the 20th this year among the 28 major nameplates included in the survey. Findings are based on responses from 1.3 million vehicle owners or lessees who subscribe to the magazine.

“We have often found that new or revamped models have more problems in their first year than in subsequent model years,” said David Champion, director of the magazine's automotive test center. “Ford's problems illustrate why we recommend to our subscribers to hold off buying a first-year model.”

Ford's drop in customer satisfaction can also be linked to problems with new technology in the company's latest cars, Consumer Reports says, including the new MyFord Touch infotainment system and the new automated-manual transmission in the latest Fiesta and Focus models.

But there was a ray of sunshine for Ford: The Fusion hybrid sedan was well-received among consumers, and other Fusion versions ranked above average.

Like Ford, General Motors saw negative consumer response in this year's survey, particularly for the Buick and Cadillac brands, which fell six spots each to 24th and 25th, respectively. The Buick LaCrosse, the all-wheel-drive Enclave and the Cadillac SRX all fell to below-average ratings.

On the other hand, domestic brands that saw improvement in 2011 were Jeep, Lincoln and Chrysler, which ranked 13th, 14th and 15th in the survey. Jeep moved up seven spots to 13, becoming the most reliable domestic brand. Chrysler moved up 12 spots on the list, but its ranking was based on just two models: the 200 sedan (formerly the Sebring), which ranked well above average, and the Town & Country minivan, which received poor ratings.

Japanese brands still won out overall, taking the top nine spots for customer satisfaction. Toyota's Scion brand topped the rankings, followed by Lexus and Acura. Mazda saw the biggest improvement among Japanese makes, jumping eight spots from last year, to fourth overall.

Meanwhile, European vehicles finished just below the U.S. domestic brands--64 percent of models tested scored average or better. Volvo rounded out the top 10 in the survey at No. 10, scoring the best among European makes, largely based on positive response to the redesigned S60 sedan.

Consumer Reports said results varied from model to model for German luxury makers. Overall, Volkswagen held on to 16th place, and Mercedes-Benz and BMW both moved up four spots in the rankings to 18th and 19th, respectively.

Porsche showed the biggest drop of any carmaker in the survey, dropping 25 places from second best to 27th, or second worst, though the magazine only had test data on two of its models.

By Michelle Koueiter